By Ben Hoffman
Tempers flared and sparks flew Tue., Nov. 22 at a debate co-organized by Campus Pro-Life and the U of C Debate Club.
The pro-life versus pro-choice debate featured proponents of both camps: Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre of Bio- ethical Reform and Dr. John Baker of the University of Calgary’s Philosophy Department respectively.
The two started the debate by presenting their arguments, starting with Gray.
“The issue of abortion has been wrapped in the word: choice,” Gray said, opening her argument with a spin on the pro-choice camp’s choice of words. “All of us are pro-choice in some things, but there are some things that we are anti-choice about.”
“The issue is not unwantedness, the issue the status of the unborn,” Gray said later in her opening statement. “We won’t kill two year olds if we don’t want them, but we can kill the unborn. This suggests that we consider the unborn inferior.”
Gray went on to legitimize her argument by drawing the line she considers the unborn human, the moment of conception.
“At fertilization, the zygote contains all of the genetic material it needs to grow,” she said. “Granted, it still needs the right environment to grow, but so do we.”
Gray finished her opening by showing a video depicting some examples of the procedure.
“One criticism of using such images is that they are emotional,” she said in support of the use of the graphic displays. “But, these images are simply the truth.”
Taking the stand second, Baker argued the pro-choice case.
“The issue of abortion is as much about women as it is about fetuses,” Baker began.
“There are no philosophical grounds to show that fetuses have moral standing before the thirteenth week of development,” he said. “After that, it gets quite a bit more complicated.”
“Before about 12 or so weeks, it is going to be very hard to say that the fetus has anything more than potential for sentience or awareness of self,” he said, threading together a classic pro-choice argument against what he calls the potentiality argument. “After 13 or so weeks, the fetus does have an un-actualized potentiality for higher brain activity.”
“The potentiality argument [that pro-life advocates use] is weak.”
“It is important to remember that fetal development is very complicated,” said Baker, rounding out his argument by criticizing the definition of the word abortion. “It is also important to remember that abortion consists of two acts: the first is the removal of the fetus, and the second is the death of the fetus.”
After the opening arguments, further arguments were offered and questions were allowed from the tense gallery. One contested item by the audience was the often-invoked analogy between Nazism and abortion, which was contained in some of the arguments the speakers made.
The event, organized by Campus Pro-Life Vice-President Josh Nugent, with assistance from the U of C Debate club, ended with an anxious air and the feeling that not much was settled.